Few people want to spend time thinking about passing away. Of course, loved ones would rather not contemplate it either. At the same time, one lasting legacy that you can leave for your family is to make the time after your death as stress-free as possible. You can do this by making sure that your family knows how to access your property and any other benefits that you might leave behind. The right planning will help with difficult questions even after you're not there to answer them.
Steps to Consider to Make Your Passing Easier
If you leave behind property, financial accounts and other assets, how will these get divided after you die? If you don't leave clear instructions, you can cause a lot of stress for your family members. In the end, the state may decide who gets your assets, and typically, these kinds of probate processes take a lot of time and cost a lot of money.
To avoid these problems, most people choose these options:
- Wills: With a will, you get to appoint your estate's executor. You also get to specify how you would like your assets distributed and even how you would like certain things to be done. For example, you can detail your preferences for a funeral or the care of your pet or a dependent child. You can think of a will as a document that lets you still have a voice in family matters even after you pass away. Once filed, wills do become public record, can be challenged, and are still subject to probate.
- Trusts: A living trust will let your family keep assets private and avoid probate. In the case of large estates, they may also help avoid estate taxes. Instead of appointing an executor, the creator of a living trust will appoint a trustee to manage the assets. Like a will, a trust can make arrangements for property distribution. Unlike wills, they can't communicate personal desires for planning a funeral, caring for a disabled child, and so on.
Wills and trusts offer some of the same benefits, but each of them has certain limitations. People with smaller and simpler estates may find that they can just choose to use a will. People who need to pass on larger and more complex estates may decide that they need both a will and a living trust.
Who Can Help Plan for Your Family's Needs After You Pass Away?
An experienced estate attorney can learn about individual and family situations, suggest the best solutions, and then prepare and store the legal documents. After you pass away, your trustee or executor can work with the attorney to make sure that your family doesn't suffer any undue stress.